A lightning operation conducted without incident by Brazilian security forces early Sunday morning allowed authorities to regain control of two "favelas," or shantytowns, in a strategic part of Rio de Janeiro forming part of the roadway corridor for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Complejo do Caju and Barreira do Vasco favela districts, which for decades had been controlled by drug traffickers, were taken over in half an hour by some 1,500 members of the security forces, mainly the Bope special operations battalion and the Shock Battalion of the Military Police, backed up by the local Civil Police and some 200 navy riflemen.
The riflemen, transported on navy armored vehicles, removed the barricades and other obstacles that drug traffickers had left along stretches of roadway to make police access more difficult.
The two shantytowns lie along the only route between Avenida Brasil, which links the northern part of the city with the populous western zone, and Rio's Tom Jobim international airport.
Some 16,000 people live in the Complejo de Caju and another 6,000 live in Barreira do Vasco.
The security forces will remain in the area until a peacekeeping police unit is deployed there, as has been done in other favelas to maintain order and prevent criminal activity.
The operation was conducted along the same lines as similar actions in other Rio favelas with the authorities announcing the entry of the police several days in advance of the deployment so that drug traffickers there could flee and possible shootouts that might harm the local population might be avoided.
In Sunday's operation, apparently not a shot was fired and at least 12 people suspected of belonging to drug trafficking bands were arrested.
The authorities' aim in retaking control of a number of the city's favelas is to guarantee the safety of the athletes and fans coming to Rio for the Olympic Games three years from now. Some of the sports events will be held in the city's western zone.